93. Editorial Note

On July 27, 1961, a U.S. Delegation, led by Assistant Secretary of State Kohler and including Legal Adviser Chayes, Director of the Office of German Affairs Hillenbrand, Under Secretary of the Treasury Fowler, and Assistant Secretary of Defense Nitze, flew to Paris for a week of meetings with representatives of France, the United Kingdom, and the Federal Republic of Germany to lay the groundwork for the Foreign Ministers meeting beginning August 5. At its first meeting this Four-Power Working Group agreed on the following order of business: 1) Political problems; 2) Politico-military problems; 3) Economic phases of contingency planning; and 4) Information program.

The U.S. memorandum on Berlin, which was distributed to the other Western powers on July 21 (see Document 79), served as the basis for discussion.

By August 2 the Working Group had drafted a report on Soviet motives and intentions; reached general agreement, although the French and Germans had doubts, that negotiations with the Soviet Union [Page 268] should be opened before it signed a peace treaty with the German Democratic Republic; and discussed the forum, scope, and substance of the negotiations. Discussion of politico-military problems revealed that the other Western powers had reservations about a large-scale ground probe, while talks on the economic aspects of contingency planning reached a consensus on a total embargo of the Soviet bloc in the event of a “substantial” blockage of access to Berlin. (Memorandum for the Secretary, August 2; Department of State, Central Files, 762.00/8-261)

In commenting on the early meetings of the Working Group, McGeorge Bundy told the President that the U.S. Delegation “was even less ready to think of new positions than the Acheson-McGhee papers recommend,” and suggested that the President talk to Secretary Rusk about this rigidity. (Memorandum attached to telegram 588 from Paris, August 2; Kennedy Library, President’s Office Files, Germany)

On August 4 the Working Group completed its discussions and submitted its report to the four Western governments. Entitled “Report of the Four-Power Working Group on Germany and Berlin, Paris, July 28-August 4, 1961,” it consisted of six sections: I) Soviet Motives and Intentions, II) Tactics, III) Substantial Political Questions, IV) Strengthening of the Forces of the Alliance, V) Recommended Minute on Economic Countermeasures, and VI) Review of Berlin Contingency Plans. A copy of the report, with 10 attached U.S. papers on various aspects of the Berlin problem (MCB Memo 3(I)), August 4, is in Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 65 D 366, CF 1945. Kohler’s telegrams summarizing the activities of the Working Group are ibid., Central Files, 762.00/7-2861 through 762.00/8-461. For Chayes’ recollections of the meetings, see his oral history interview at the Kennedy Library.